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The Republic of Guatemala is mostly mountainous, with a few patches of desert, yet is home to environmentally essential forests, including the Maya Biosphere, the second largest forest in Central America. The first humans to inhabit the land arrived in 12,000 BCE, possibly as far back as 18,000 BCE. Eventually the Maya moved in, with the Mayan Empire peaking in 900 CE. Drought and famine struck most of the Empire, leaving it to struggle to recover in the following centuries, never to gain the population, size, or riches it once had.
The Spanish discovered the land in 1519 and sent several expeditions to explore it. Cortez gave his brother Pedro Alvarado the task of conquering the area, a decision he regretted when Pedro allied with the Natives and turned his back on Spain. Once finished with his own conquest, Cortez sent reinforcements to take the land from his brother and his allies and finally claim it in the name of Spain. Settlement and spread of colonies provided no opportunity for a peaceful existence; some tribes never took to assimilation and jumped at the opportunity to trade for weapons from the British. In 1541 an earthquake and heavy rains caused the Agua Volcano to flood the capitol. Natural disasters continued until the capitol had to be rebuilt in Ermita Valley in 1776.
In 1821, Central American gained independence from Spain, beginning a long history of cruel and feuding rulers for the new conglomeration of countries. While formally part of New Spain previously, the Captaincy of Guatemala had long been ruled as a separate region.
Guatemala has had a tumultuous history of coups, assassinations, and dictatorships. President Cabrera allowed the United Fruit Company into Guatemala around 1904, presumably hoping to encourage development. The United Fruit Company supported dictators and opposed any attempt at land reform, and pushed the US government into helping keep down any such group, in the name of stopping communism. Huge numbers of people, most especially the Mayan Indians that make up most of the population, have been killed.
74.5% of the entire population, which is almost split 50/50 mestizo and criollo, is literate. The official language is Spanish, spoken by 93% of the population.
Area: 108,889 square kilometers
Population: 14,918,999 (2015)